Singapore will host the 16th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade negotiations. Expectations are high that the grouping is on track to wrap up talks by the end of this year.

These meetings, three years after the first round of negotiations were held in Melbourne, will be attended by over 600 delegates from the 11 TPP member countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the United States, Vietnam and Singapore.

The TPP is an ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) involving the aforementioned 11 nations which had a target of completion of October 2013. Substantial progress in negotiations have been achieved and there is a high expectation that Singapore’s chairmanship of this critical round of negotiations will help realise this completion target.

It is in Singapore’s strategic interest to participate in the TPP with the 11 members at present having a combined GDP of about USD $21 trillion, an amount over half of the total GDP of Apec’s 21 members.

The TPP is expected to eventually include all Apec members and be a possible pathway to be a free trade area of Asia-Pacific. Should such plans materialise, the agreement will cover 2.7 billion people and a combined GDP of almost US$39 trillion, which is 40 per cent of the world’s population and more than half of global GDP.

Additionally, there will be a Stakeholder’s Forum on 6 March. 300 stakeholders comprising business representatives, academics and non-governmental organisations from around the world have signed up to participate in the event. A third of registered participants hail from Singapore, with another one-third coming from the US.